Stephen Matthews

1804-1899

By Geoff Dickinson

Transcription of Obituary In the Primitive Methodist Magazine by George Fowler

On Wenesday morning, December 13, 1899, Mr. Stephen Matthews, of Brinkworth, county of Wilts, entered into rest at the advanced age of ninety-four. Had he lived until the 24th of the same month he would have completed ninety-five years. By his removal the Brinkworth Society and the Brinkworth Circuit have lost their oldest local preacher and member.

The exact date of his conversion and time of joining the infant society cannot be ascertained. After the first missionaries had preached in the open air, a temporary building (still standing) was occupied for a time. No doubt he, worshipped in it. The first Primitive Methodist Chapel built in Brinkworth (this being the second or third built in the county), was opened in 1828. Mr. Matthews took a sitting in it. The present commodious and substantial structure was built in 1860 – the Connexional Jubilee year. Mr. Matthews became a trustee of this chapel, as also his brother William, familiarly known as “Baker” Matthews. In Brinkworth it was necessary so to distinguish the various families called “Matthews,” as the following, fact will show. When the writer removed from Brinkworth, thirty-four years ago, there were twenty-two persons in the parish known as “Mrs. Matthews.”

The two brothers, in Connection with Brothers Joseph Sly, Robert Matthews, James Matthews, and many others, manifested deep interest in the prosperity of the society at home. And when from this centre missionaries went forth to mission other places, these brethren sent sacks of potatoes, bacon, and other eatables to the homes of the missionaries. In those days of small salaries and few friends, help of this nature was greatly appreciated. One of the longest lists of names and promises - known as “The Golden System,” - that the writer ever saw existed at Brinkworth. In fact it was at Stratton St. Margaret, then in the Brinkworth Circuit, now in Swindon First, where this very useful mode of raising money to pay off chapel debt originated. Mr. Daniel Lewis, a hired local preacher, was the originator. Then the Editor of the Large Magazine, Rev. H. Bourne, found a place for one or two articles at the time, highly commending the “system.” None gave more cheerfully at the chapel anniversary than our late brother, Mr. S. Matthews. He lived to see the debts on chapel and lecture hall paid off, also the new manse erected on the hill near chapel. He retained the position of chapel treasurer to the time of his death, assisted by Mr. Henry Hitchcock (Chairman of the School Board), who frequently visited Mr. Matthews to the end of his earthly sojourn.

To quote the statement of Rev. J.A. Snaith, resident minister, “It was a pleasure to listen to his stories of the triumphs of the Gospel. He would become excited as he told of the early preachers on the village green, amongst, whom he would speak of Hugh Bourne, the crowds attending the camp meetings and the conversions which took place there; the five o’clock prayer meeting on cold winter mornings; the evening prayer meetings continued until eleven or twelve o’clock. He gloried in these old times, and he showed how fields were won. He had many remarkable traits of character. Such as visited him must have been impressed with his intense earnestness and his natural ability. He took great interest in things around him until the last, more particularly religious questions relating to his own Church. He was of a philosophical turn of mind, and evidently thought deeply. His delight was in the law of the Lord; he was very familiar with his Bible. Until the end he would enter into argument on religious questions; would give his own opinion, and ‘nail it with Scripture.’ Everything which seemed to him contrary to the Word was warmly denounced, and he was no respecter of persons, as even the curate can testify. In short, he was of the type of the men who laid the foundation of the Brinkworth Circuit, that type to which we owed so much in those early days. He was in his usual health, which was remarkable, until the Friday before his death. He could talk as usual on Monday morning, but at night his speech went. From this time he slept until early on Wednesday morning, waiting for the call. At length he raised his hand as if to shade his eyes as he looked beyond the veil - the Muster had called and he obeyed.” Some weeks before his death the writer visited him, and spent a longer period with him than usual. The season of prayer was most enjoyable. His voice was remarkably strong. He expressed himself as most pleased with the visit. From the first visit to this last was nearly forty years. His remains were interred in the Brinkworth Chapel burial-ground on Monday, Dec. 18, in the presence of numerous friends. The service was conducted by Rev. William Haddow, superintendent, and Rev. J.A. Snaith, circuit ministers.

Family

Stephen was baptised on 25 December 1804 at Brinkworth, Wiltshire. His parents were John and Sarah.

Census returns identify the following occupations for Stephen.

  • 1851 farming 3 acres
  • 1861 bacon factor
  • 1871 butcher
  • 1881 farmer
  • 1891 farmer

Stephen married Mary Mills (abt 1797-1853) on 14 November 1831 at Brinkworth.

He married Hannah Salisbury (abt1814-1876) on 20 June 1857 at Brinkworth, Wiltshire.

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1901/792

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

 

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